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Dust to Dust: Phuket’s struggle to clear the air

Legacy Phuket Gazette

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Dust to Dust: Phuket’s struggle to clear the air | Thaiger

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Each month thousands of people seek treatment at Phuket hospitals for breathing difficulties, eye and nose problems and even nausea – all brought on by dust and other forms of air pollution. The Phuket Gazette‘s Irfarn Jamdukor investigates.

PHUKET: The Phuket health chief has revealed the disturbing news that in February alone more than 2,500 people in Phuket Town received hospital treatment for ailments brought on by dust and air pollution.

The issue of airborne contaminants – especially dust from construction sites – has become one of the top health concerns in Phuket, Provincial Public Health Office (PPHO) chief Kajornsak Kaewjaras told the Phuket Gazette.

“Dust is a serious health issue affecting people throughout the island. We are very concerned about it,” he said.

Residents in and around Phuket Town are suffering more than most, Mr Kajornsak noted.

“Phuket Town has more on-going construction projects than other areas of Phuket, but many people in Kathu and Thalang are also suffering…

“Last month, we recorded 1,500 patients in Kathu and 1,000 people in Thalang receiving hospital treatment for exposure to air pollution.”

Patong is no exception, Mr Kajornsak added. He pointed out that residents living in more than 100 households have suffered health problems due to the ongoing road construction in Phuket’s leading tourism town.

“They all had red eyes and a heavy cough. Some of them had headaches, skin irritations and even nausea. The worst affliction was dust in the windpipe, which makes it difficult for the patient to breathe,” he said.

“We really do not know at which locations around the island that people suffer the most. All we receive in the reports is how many people were treated for a specific set of signs or symptoms related to dust pollution in a certain area.”

WHEN CHILDREN CHOKE

Sick and tired of clouds of dust from dump trucks plaguing their community, residents at the Srisuchart Grandview housing estate on the bypass road recently staged a protest over dust placing their health at risk.

The residents’ main objection was an incessant parade of dump trucks hauling soil into the neighborhood for a lake-filling project that left the community shrouded in a constant heavy haze (story here).

Although adults in the neighborhood suffered from dust-induced ailments, their heart-wrenching concern was for their children.

“My son is little more than one month old,” said Tawan Tejarungsri, 27.

“He became very sick last month, and now I am very worried about how this will affect his health in the long term.”

Wichit Tunseng, 42, has three children.

“All of them fell sick. One of them had a heavy cough. The other two had problems breathing and sore eyes,” he said.

Even more frightening was when the children fell silent.

“Their eyes turned red when they seemed to be suffering the most. They just spaced-out and didn’t talk much,” Mr Wichit said.

“I worry deeply about this and how it may cause other diseases to affect them.”

PPHO Chief Mr Kajornsak shared Mr Wichit’s concern, and highlighted how children living near construction sites were exposed to a plethora of other conditions.

“Children who grow up in polluted areas, including those near construction sites, tend to have health complications throughout their adult lives,” he said.

“The dust can lead to other serious diseases and conditions, such as pneumonia, blocked bronchus, pinguecula, glaucoma and skin diseases…

“All of these are long-term problems that will continue to affect the children for many years.”

DUSTY POCKETS

Not only did the dust pollution at the Srisuchart Grandview housing estate take its toll on the residents’ health, it also directly affected the incomes of many local vendors.

Raranron Jhiamsai, 35, a staffer at the River Beer Garden restaurant near the lake being filled in, said,
“I have fallen sick three times this month. My eyes turned red because of the dust and it was hard to breathe.

“I’m not the only one, my colleagues got sick too. They each had to stop working for days while they got better. We didn’t even have enough staff to serve customers.”

Restaurant owner Weerayuth Sangswang said the dust had caused a drastic fall in the number of patrons at his venue over the past four months.

“Our total income last month was about 10,000 baht. But before they started filling in the lake, it
averaged about 25,000 baht per month,” he said.

“The income is not enough and we have many mouths to feed in my family.”

FIGHTING BACK

Dust from construction sites and traffic fumes from Phuket’s clogged roads are the key causes of air pollution ailments in Phuket, Mr Kajornsak explained.

“And there are many construction projects on the island where the contractor does not care about preventing air pollution,” he said.

image

To combat the rising incidence of health complaints from fouled air, the PPHO stages outreach
visits to communities in risk areas several times a month.

“We raise awareness of air pollution and advise local residents on how to protect themselves from the air they breathe,” Mr Kajornsak said.

“The simplest solution is to wear a mask. It can prevent a person from inhaling both dust and smoke.”

However, Srisuchart resident Mr Tawan told the Gazette that without masks, all he could do was close every door to his house to prevent dust from coming in.

Yet the best weapon against air pollution lay in the hands of local officials, namely municipal officers, suggested Mr Kajornsak.

“They have the authority to ensure contractors comply with health regulations,” he said.

Local officials must be made aware of the risks and the effects air pollution has on residents in their areas, Mr Kajornsak suggested, and the officers must be taught what laws they have at their disposal to ensure compliance.

“For example, local municipalities can ensure the construction company sprays water along dirt roads used by trucks to stop dust from being churned into the air,” he said.

“They can also make sure fences are erected to prevent low-level dust, which contains heavy dust particles, from flowing into residents’ houses.”

PROGRESS

Reinforcing Mr Kajornsak’s belief that local administrations have the power to effect true change in combating dust pollution, the protest by Srisuchart Grandview residents last month resulted in Rassada Municipality stipulating a list of eight conditions that the contractor was forced to agree to in writing in order for work to continue. Since then, conditions at Srisuchart have improved greatly.

“They are still working on the project, but only four to five trucks operate at the site from 5pm to 7pm and a fence has been set up around the lake,” Mr Tawan said.

“The pollution is much better than it was last month.”

CLEAR VISION

Despite the good news in the battle to clear the air at Srisuchart, Mr Kajornsak urged parents to take a pro-active role in protecting their children from dust pollution.

“Parents living in risk areas have to take special care of their children’s health. The parents must clean their hands every time they prepare meals and all foods in the house should be covered,” he said.

“Parents should not let their child walk t

— Irfarn Jamdukor

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Coronavirus (Covid-19)

Phuket requires Covid-19 vaccination or 72-hour test

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Phuket requires Covid-19 vaccination or 72-hour test | Thaiger
FILE PHOTO: Checkpoints in Phuket will only allow Covid-19 tested or vaccinated travellers in.

To help wrangle the spread of the Covid-19 outbreak in Phuket, strict controls for everyone entering the island go into effect today until the end of April. The provincial communicable disease committee approved the measures in an effort to stop the proliferation of Covid-19 in the province. The new regulations state that only people who have received both doses of the Covid-19 vaccine or have tested to be Coronavirus-free within 3 days of arrival, will be allowed to enter Phuket. Proper certification or documentation must be presented to verify this information – either a Covid-19 vaccination certificate or the results of a recent negative Covid-19 test.

Anyone attempting to enter Phuket without two jabs of the vaccine or a negative Covid-19 test within the last 72 hours will be charged 300 baht for a rapid antigen test at their port of entry. These tests generate results in about 15 minutes and then negative-tested visitors will be allowed to proceed. If a person receives the test and is diagnosed positive for Covid-19 they will be sent to medical facilities immediately for treatment.

All entrants to Phuket are also required to use the Mor Chana Covid-19 contact tracing app to check in and record their travel timelines. That mobile app is available at gophuget.com.

The new restrictions apply to local and foreign travellers except for people making deliveries that are not staying overnight. Those people will get a special certification from their companies to present at the checkpoint entrance to the island.

Phuket is now classified as a Red Zone province, one of 19 provinces throughout Thailand where infections are on the rise. 208 current Covid-19 infections were registered at the start of this week in Phuket.

In response to the increasing Covid-19 infections in Phuket, Surat Thani has made special restrictions for anyone travelling from Phuket to Surat Thani. Those people will be required to scan and register their trip through the “Save Surat” website before being quarantined for 14 days.

SOURCE: Thai PBS World

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Those flying into Phuket face Covid tests from tomorrow

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Those flying into Phuket face Covid tests from tomorrow | Thaiger

Starting tomorrow, those who fly into Phuket International Airport will face a Covid-19 “Antigen Rapid Test” unless they have proof of being fully vaccinated or a previously negative Covid test within 72 hours of arriving. The Phuket Communicable Disease Committee announced the new rule last night, and will go through April 30. The measure also includes those coming from red zones. The test is 300 baht with travellers being required to foot the bill. Results are expected to take 15 minutes.

For those entering the province by road, only those from red zone provinces will be required to be tested. All arrivals must install the MorChana app, register their travel details through the www.gophuget.com web portal, and have their arrival and travel details reported to the Emergency Operations Center for the area where the traveller is staying. Those who are only transporting goods and don’t stay in Phuket overnight are exempt from the new rules. But, they must show a permission document.

The government is asking people to limit their travel, particularly to red zone provinces. Here’s a list of the red zone provinces.

1. Bangkok
2. Chiang Mai
3. Chon Buri
4. Samut Prakan
5. Prachuap Khiri Kan
6. Samut Sakhon
7. Pathum Thani
8. Nakhon Pathom
9. Phuket
10. Nakhon Ratchasima
11. Nonthaburi
12. Songkhla
13. Tak
14. Udon Thani
15. Suphanburi
16. Sa Kaeo
17. Rayong
18. Khon Kaen

You can expect other provinces to introduce similar restrictions over the next few days. We’ll keep you up to date on thethaiger.com

Phuket requires Covid paperwork to enter from red zone provinces from Wednesday (April 21) | News by Thaiger

Meanwhile, Phuket is receiving almost 100,000 Covid-19 Sinovac doses to administer second vaccine rounds to those who received their first jabs earlier this month. Thailand today, has recorded 1,443 new daily Covid-19 infections. 4 more deaths have also been recorded. 55 people are now on ventilators under state care. The government claims there are 1,000 ventilators available. 666,210 people in Thailand have now received at least 1 dose of a Covid vaccine. Only 2 of today’s reported cases were imported.

SOURCE: The Phuket News

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Almost 100,000 Sinovac doses delivered to Phuket for second round of jabs

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Almost 100,000 Sinovac doses delivered to Phuket for second round of jabs | Thaiger

Phuket is receiving almost 100,000 Covid-19 Sinovac doses to administer second vaccine rounds to those who received their first jabs earlier this month. 99,480 doses were delivered yesterday at Vachira Phuket Hospital in Phuket Town. 30,000 doses will be delivered to Thalang Hospital, 20,000 to Patong Hospital and 10,000 to Chalong Hospital. Vachira hospital’s director posted last night detailing the vaccines’ distribution, noting that Vachira will keep the rest in store.

The vaccine doses will help continue the mass-vaccination campaign which will continue until April 30. About 90,000 people and 9,000 medical and public health personnel are scheduled to receive their 2nd vaccine doses. 480 military, police, and frontline personnel are also on the list.

The Phuket Provincial Health Office has made a goal of inoculating 8,000-9,000 people per day, but many have criticised that number as being unachievable. Chalermpong says SMS services will be used to notify those of vaccine appointments.

The Phuket News reports that people who have already had their first injection but who have not received an SMS confirming the second vaccination appointment can check at the “Phuket Must Win” website. Chalermpong says if you cannot find your name, then you can visit the vaccination station and present your certificate to staff after 3pm each day.

Other provincial authorities joined in giving their advice with the PPHO chief reminding that even if you are vaccinated, you could still be infected, but the symptoms won’t be very bad. The Vice Governor also chimed in saying if you want the first injection, they are open for registration today. But if you want to be vaccinated in May you must have an appointment as authorities are trying to reduce congestion.

Meanwhile, Phuket’s plans to reopen by July to vaccinated tourists may be stalled due to the 3rd wave of Covid and a slower rollout of vaccine administration than previously planned. New restrictions from entering the province have also been announced. Currently, you’ll need either a certificate of proof that you’ve had both doses of an approved Covid-19 vaccine, a Covid-19-free certificate, not older than 72 hours, or you’ll have to do a Rapid Covid Test at a cost of 300 baht at the airport.

This situation will apply until at least the end of April. The downside of coming to Phuket at this time will be risking a positive Rapid Covid Test, if you don’t have the other paperwork, and ending up in a field hospital.

If you’re arriving in Phuket by road, through the Thachatchai road checkpoint at the top of the island, only travellers from the red zone provinces will be affected by the new restrictions. If you’re from an orange zone you’ll be able to enter without the paperwork, for now anyway.

SOURCE: The Phuket News

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